Since Abigail Roux’s solo work disappointed me and all but brought an end to my interest in her efforts, I decided to give Madeleine Urban’s other work a go. It’s only fair. I suppose one of the down sides of a reading coma is that, in perpetuating the blissful daze, things like diligence and standards can slack. In this case, I decided on this title because I somehow missed Roux’s name attached to it and thought that it was all Urban. I think I was about 40% of the way through before I noticed. But I liked the story and it was my intention to try another one of their collaborations anyway, so I kept on.
Caught Running is about the reunion of a nerd, Brandon, and a jock, Jake, former schoolmates, as teachers at their high school alma mater. Urban and Roux’s way with their past was refreshing because, even though there were mentions of bullying, it was not directly between the leads. Their differences were more about moving in circles and having interests that didn’t really overlap. They both had prejudices against the other’s label, but they’d reached an age and a maturity level that made it easy for them to consciously admit that such things were ridiculous and a part of themselves that they were ashamed of and wanted to change. So without that sort of built-in conflict, we’re left with them just being two people who barely know each other trying to make a forced and unexpected partnership work. It went pretty well, but nothing is ever perfect.
The school is short on staff, so Brandon, who teaches biology, gets saddled with teaching freshman health and filling the vacant position of assistant coach for the school’s baseball team on top of his already packed schedule. Jake, a P.E. teacher and the head coach for baseball, football, and wrestling, is first upset by the news because he had no idea he even needed a replacement. He quickly accepted the fact, but was still wary of Brandon, who he initially assumed had no athletic ability, being of any help. Brandon wasn’t so sure either, but he was willing to try or bow out if that was what Jake preferred. So, they gave it a go. Jake questioned Brandon about any applicable skills and he learned that Brandon was a baseball fan–not that being a fan easily translated to being an effective coach–and also that he was a runner. Cross country, it turned out. Things were working out alright and both guys were pleasantly surprised with how well. Jake was definitely the guy in charge, but Brandon was a quick study and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when he believed he had something to contribute. Helping with the camaraderie were Jonathan, the freshman coach, and Troy, the junior varsity coach–both alums, but Jonathan was a freshman when the others were seniors.
They hadn’t exactly butted heads or anything, but a few days into the new arrangement, Jake couldn’t figure out whether he liked (in the general sense) Brandon or not, but something about the guy struck him. For one, he was observant and helpful and nowhere near as useless as Jake feared. For another, his surprisingly athletic build caught Jake’s eye and he found that it caught the attention of other things, too. For Brandon’s part, though, when he was struck, there was nothing vague about it, he knew he was attracted. As Jake caught up, they both struggled with the knowledge. It would be terrible and could ruin them and there wasn’t even a hint that the other was marginally interested. But even through the frustration and temptation, they got along on and off the field. It was cute how they both felt that the other didn’t enjoy their company as much as each of them did personally, but they still managed to work out ways to be around each other for more than strictly work.
Then someone got brave. From their first kiss to them realizing and admitting it was more than just a passing fancy, it was three days, so says Brandon. But so much stuff happened and I’m kind of thinking that the authors lost track of a day or two somewhere in there. Anyway, I liked them together. Even when they weren’t sure what the other really wanted or even what they themselves truly wanted, they either opted for honesty or reticence rather that bending or breaking the truth. No surprise that they ended up together, but the journey there was kind of nice, but like I mentioned, nothing is ever perfect.
First. There were suspicions of substance abuse, but it kind of turned out that the person was just self-medicating, genuinely. Kind of. I don’t know who the bigger influence in this is between Urban and Roux, but similar to Zane’s addiction in the Cut & Run series, the issue was introduced, had its place in the story, but was never fully addressed. For Cut & Run, by the end, I just thought that the gravity of it was not appropriately expressed. Addiction is a constant battle and there were times that I forgot the issue existed. Even if the story doesn’t dive deep into it, forgetting that it’s an issue at all should never be the case for a reader. Worse for this one is that the story ended right before it was supposed to be addressed. They could have at least attempted an epilogue, especially considering the way the story ended. Now, they never handled it horribly, but I think they purposely worked it just enough so that it didn’t seem like they were glossing over it. Though I can understand the desire to not make it the focus of the story, I still think it’s lazy.
Second. Right before the first two times something was about to happen between Brandon and Jake, the other two coaches just disappeared off the scene. No explanation on why they were not present. They also just seemed to be off the grid for a significant portion of the latter part of the story and just popped up at the end. Too convenient.
And third. Like the first issue, I’m not sure who’s really to blame. Definitely both since their names are on the cover, but which of them are writing the women? I really, really did not like the way the women were portrayed. I don’t like when, in M/M stories or what have you, the women are the antagonists primarily because they want one of the men. It does not have to be that way. It’s disappointing and lazy and just gross. It’s not impossible to write better women. It’s been done. I don’t need be shown the ugly side of desire in the shape of a woman to be convinced to cheer for the men. I’m already reading the damn book! If you can’t write women well–it’s sad and a failing for you as a writer, exponentially so if you are a woman as well–but if you really can’t, why don’t you just leave women out altogether? It works in manga, just, you know, no women. But this isn’t new or rather this isn’t the only instance of them doing this, so they have some bad habits that they really need to fix. Another aspect of this is that Jake’s issue with Misty was never resolved. I have a problem with people not being up front and just saying that they aren’t interested. Is Jake just going to duck and dodge her advances until she gets tired? Nonsense. I suppose I’ll see who’s more at fault when I check out Urban’s other works.
Some minor things that I just have to get out. When they were getting ready and into it for their first time, there was a box of condoms in the scene, but it was never opened there was no discussion about not using one which skeeves me out a bit. And then they finished and were waxing euphoric and I was just screaming about how could they just let that go. But the beast in me was soothed soon enough and I was pretty happy about the way it went. But then, or rather, before that… I mean, I always have this problem because I just do, but they were sweaty after a game. Like, do you really want to put your mouth on that? Take a shower, you heathens! And what is it with people writing stories where people walk into a grocery store, grab a basket and before they walk out they’re pushing a cart? Why do I keep running into this?
Anyway, they didn’t get together until about halfway into the book and I wondered what the heck was going on, what was going to happen? Was it going to break my heart? And, whatever it was, was it going to be good? Meaning the writing. Or was it going to be bad, drawing out a story that just did not need to go that long? But, with the exception of diminishing the weight of the whole self-medication thing and the women, I think the remainder of the story was pretty decent.
I checked and it looks like I’m not going to be able to read a solo work by Madeline Urban because the one book that I found seems to be something I’m not interested in. At all. However, she does work with other writers, so I’m going to check some of those works out. I wonder why most of her work is co-written. Regardless, we’ll see what happens with Urban and her other cohorts; maybe I can get a good story out of one of them. Then again, maybe not since it looks like the books she wrote with other people all have low or rather not quite convincing enough ratings for me to read–just the stars, I haven’t read any of the reviews. If the masses think they’re bad or even mediocre, I’m sure I’ll think they’re terrible. But maybe I’ll read one more by her and Roux instead. Maybe.